Preserved: Five Spice Plum Sauce

Emily Teel

I like sugar as much as the next human, but a person should only eat so much of it. When I saw super ripe Italian prune plums on sale at my farmer's market this weekend, I knew that I had to put them up. But with plum jam already in the pantry, I wanted to find a sweet, yet savory, application.

Instead of jamming the plums, I pitted them, chopped them, and then let them stew in a little water with onion, ginger, garlic, and hot peppers. As they cooked, the skins gave off their beautiful color, staining the whole batch purple. Next, I added red wine vinegar and brown sugar for sweetness and acidity, and a splash of soy sauce to build a layer of savory, umami flavor. Finally, I stirred in black peppers, fennel seed, whole cloves, star anise, cinnamon, and sichuan peppercorns.

The resulting sauce is tangy, sweet, and umami-rich. Heavily spiced, it's almost like ketchup and definitely out of the realm of the transparent sweetness of most preserves. It makes a great addition to your pantry because so many meals can rely on it to provide foundational flavor. It also makes a great dipping sauce for dumplings, and I can't wait to try it alongside roast chicken or duck, either on its own or in lettuce wraps.

About the Author: Emily Teel is a food writer and recipe developer in Philadelphia. Follow along on Twitter @brotherly_grub and see more of her work at